The Togolese government has been called upon to end the use of dental amalgam for children under 16, pregnant women and women who breastfeed by July 18, 2020.
The call was made by a gathering of stakeholders comprising civil society groups, trade unions, and dentists in a resolution they arrived at following the close of a meeting held at the headquarters of Les Amis de la Terre-Togo on Wednesday, July 18, 2018. The event was organised in collaboration with partners to define a roadmap for elimination of mercury in dentistry in Togo.
Participants further recommended, among others, that, in accordance with the provisions of the Minamata Convention, the government should launch a coordinated multi-sectoral approach for the elimination of dental amalgam in Togo, update the dental school training programme to focus on mercury-free dentistry, and implement a work plan for the phase-out of dental mercury amalgam in the country.
This, they added, should also include reviewing legislation and developing guidelines, collecting baseline data and developing a national inventory. Other recommendations include: initiate demonstration projects and application of the best available, practical and environmentally friendly technology in the management of dental amalgam; promote alternative/transition to alternatives with imported alternative restoration materials; and engage the public and the media and other stakeholders in raising awareness of the health impacts of mercury and the need to prevent cavities.
Prior to the July 18 meeting, the Les Amis de la Terre-Togo (ADT-Togo) had on February 27 and 28 with the support of the World Alliance for Mercury Free Dentistry, organised, at CASEF in Lomé, a two-day awareness and ownership workshop for the elimination of mercury in dentistry in Togo.
The workshop brought together 50 participants from groups of dentists, including the College of Dentists, the National Association of Dentists, dental assistants at Sylvanus Olympio University Hospital in Lomé, and from three other economic regions of Togo.
Consumers’ associations, environmental NGOs, research professors from the University of Lome, lawyers, environmentalists, journalists, representatives of the Ministry of Health, representatives of the Ministry of Environment (focal points or representatives of the Minamata, Basel, Stockholm and SAICM conventions) were also present.
The two meetings, however, revealed that:
- Mercury is a chemical of worldwide concern because of its long-range transport in the atmosphere, its persistence in the environment once introduced by humans and its ability to bio-accumulate in ecosystems;
- Exposure to mercury can cause damage to vital human organs such as the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, cardiovascular system and immune system, especially to women, fetuses, children and adults. infants;
- The low level of awareness of the dangers of mercury in dental amalgam, in Togo and that dental amalgam is still widely used and is the filling material of the cavities resulting from the removal of dental tissues generally affected by caries and the most affordable, meeting the needs of health care of the people of Togo.
- The limited availability of dental health staff, appropriate service infrastructures and materials for dental restoration, and the high cost of dental restoration treatment;
- The limited number of dental clinics and centers to provide services to the people of Togo;
- Alternative direct restoration materials such as composites, compomers and ceramics can be used for the restoration of carious and non-carious cavities of the anterior and posterior teeth according to selection criteria and specific indications
- The Ministry of Environment and Forest Resources, the Ministry of Health and Welfare, UNIDO and other stakeholders have committed to the adoption of Togo Minamata Convention Initial Assessment report (adoption in progress).
At a working session of civil society organisations (CSOs) for the definition of a roadmap for the elimination of mercury in dentistry in Togo on Wednesday, July 18, which brought together 26 participants, including the President of the World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, Charlie Brown, Mrs. Adetonah Sounkoura, Head of GAPROFA, provided information on a study conducted in Benin by her organisation on mercury contamination.
Dominique Bally Kpokro, Vice President for Africa of the World Alliance for Mercury Free Dentistry, spoke about mercury, types and the negative impacts of mercury on human health and the environment. This was followed by debates and discussions on the two presentations that awakened the consciousness of participants to make commitment to raise awareness on the issue of mercury poisoning.
Mr. Kokou Elorm Amegadze, acting Executive Director of Les Amis de la Terre-Togo, presented the Togolese CSO Action Plan for the elimination of mercury in dentistry in Togo which focuses on raising citizens’ awareness on:
- the risks associated with the use of mercury in dental amalgam,
- the training of dentists and their assistants,
- the promotion of alternatives to mercury in dentistry, advocacy for regulatory measures for the elimination of mercury in dentistry,
- advocacy for the definition of a new dental policy,
- advocacy for the change of training curricula in dentistry at the University of Lomé among others.
World Alliance for Mercury-Free Dentistry, Mr. Charlie Brown, in his speech, praised Togo’s actions in favour of the end of mercury in dental amalgam and its leadership on the issue. According to him, it is unacceptable to treat teeth diseases with products containing mercury, which he described as a highly toxic substance.
He expressed the hope that the government’s efforts in the implementation of the Minamata Convention and the proposals of civil society would ultimately lead to new, healthy and safe solutions for dental patients, the medical professionals, the public and the environment.